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Focusing his eyes, Stark takes in the room as he appears from the teleport tile. The scribe extends her arm out toward the room and says, "This is my library."
A scan is all it takes to see signs of the merchant vendor's encounter with the thief. A bow lies carelessly discarded on the ground. An arrow bites into a chest along the far wall. Stark could almost feel it still quivering, as if it had just been released a moment ago. Half the room is a chaotic mess. Books, paper, and ink bottles litter the floor, with the aisle of overturned tables as the obvious reason.
Despite all that, it's easy to see this room is usually well kept. More than well kept. The other half of the room has small, wooden tables sitting side by side, each perfectly aligned with the next. The accompanying chair for each table is likewise precisely set, with not a single mote of dust in sight.
"Why so many desks? Surely you don't use them all."
"This place is open for anyone to use, unlike the Luna Library where only a privileged few have access. All are welcome as long as they respect the books."
Melfina begins to pick up the mess on the ground. As Stark bends down to help, Melfina sharply yells, "Wait! Are your hands clean!?"
He stops and looks at his hands. A little intense isn't she.
"Make sure they're clean." Stark wipes his hands with the damp cloth she throws at him. "And dry," she adds as she throws him a second cloth. "Just set everything on the table there, I'll organize it later."
"And the bookshelves might look empty now, but they'll be filled soon enough," she adds.
"Not at all what I was thinking. These are the most books I've seen collected all in one place," he says impressed.
Encouraged, Melfina continues, "Oh. Well. Most people don't yet understand what a privilege it is to have access to this wealth of knowledge. They treat reading and writing as if it is just a tool for commerce. It's so much more than that! But it's not entirely their fault. No one's provided them with easy access to books of such a wide variety. This place will have something for everyone! The stories of individual people and entire nations will be here. So will the tales of bards, reference books, recipe books, and anything else you can imagine! Accessible to anyone."
"And research. I have books that I'm working on, filled with my own research that I'll share with anyone. Well... when I'm finished. Some of it at least. The ability to leave a life time of research so others can pick up where you left off, or to build upon what others have done before... that is a blessing that most people don't realize we have."
"The value of books isn't lost on my Order. Paladins must all carry The Book of Chivalry where ever we go, to remind us of our training, remind us of the history of our Order, keep our prayers with us, and provide us with answers."
"I know about The Book of Chivalry. The Keepers give me some to sell whenever I run low. I've glanced at it, and it's not what I was expecting really. I was expecting... more."
"Merchant Vendor, those books of Chivalry that you sell are just a hint of what's contained in a true Book of Chivalry. The books that we give out for vendors to sell are meant only to help spread our word, and generate interest in our Order. They contain only abbreviated versions of the Books of Purpose, History, Psalms, and Theory. The Books of Procedure, Invocation, Training, and Battle are left out entirely."
The scribe puts on a very disarming face and Melfina meekly replies, "I would like to see that sometime, if I may, honorable Paladin."
Keeping an amused grin from reaching his face, Stark says, "So you can be polite. At least when you want something." The confused look on her face forces him to add, "You'll figure it out in time."
Still bewildered, "What?"
"Sometimes words are meaningless if they don't come from within." Stark continues, "And yes of course, you can look through my Book of Chivalry, on your honor that you will not reproduce the sections intended for the Order alone. Those sections will not make sense to the uninitiated without the guidance of a Keeper, or at the very least, a Paladin."
"Of course, I know how to guard important information." Stark watches the scribe walk over to a cabinet in the far corner of the room. She pulls a key from her pocket, and unlocks the cabinet. Inside are only a handful of books, each carefully spaced out from each other. "I keep the oldest books here, away from the light. Most people don't realize it, but something as harmless seeming as light can eventually cause damage to paper."
"The Light is both gentle and strong," Stark says reverently.
"So can moisture, extreme heat, and extreme cold, and the oils on our own fingers too." Melfina gently adds the Tome of Lost Knowledge to her collection and then closes the cabinet and locks the door. Caressing the wood of the door she says half to herself, and half to no one at all, "This was all meant to be for Luna. Now it's even harder to reach them."
"What do you mean?"
"This place. Not these actual floors and walls, but this library, all of these books. My home. It was in Luna. I had to leave. Lord of West Luna helped me get a new start."
"I can see what he must have seen in you."
Melfina turns red. "Well that doesn't matter. This will become the center of knowledge of the entire world some day."
Stark laughs. "I wish you luck."
"It won't take luck. It will take a lot of work and time. You'll see." Melfina's eyes begin to droop and a yawn escapes her mouth.
"You've had a hard day today. You should eat and rest Merchant Vendor. Your body needs to recover."
Melfina utters something and a wedge of cheese appears. She starts to lose her balance and Stark steps forward, ready to catch her.
"I'm ok. Just got a little dizzy." She gets up and goes into a cabinet and pulls out a loaf of bread.
"Come and join me."
They both take a seat and the guard captain gladly eats, finding the events of the day have given him a huge appetite.
"I saw you scanning the room when you appeared, as if taking in a crime scene."
"What was the first thing you noticed?"
"Well, a quick scan told me plenty. The mess is isolated to one aisle of desks. That shows the path the thief took. The wide spacing between desks means he knocked over the tables on purpose to slow you down as he made his escape. The arrow in the chest along the far wall makes me assume that's where you were standing, most likely preparing to put the Tome of Lost Knowledge away in the sealed cabinet. The common look of the bow and the way he discarded it tells me he cared nothing for it, and was most likely picked up off of the floor of the Luna Bank where someone else was just tossing it away. The short distance from where the bow was left and where you were standing tells me that the arrow was meant only as a distraction, as no one could have missed from that distance. The off center desks right over there shows where you cleared your way as you chased him."
"Did you notice anything else?" Melfina asks, a half-knowing grin beginning to form.
Stark runs the scenario in his mind, and can't think of what she's hinting at.
"As you entered the room, something you should have noticed but didn't?"
Stark stands up and looks around the room once more... and he still can't figure it out.
"As you entered the room?"
Stark looks back to where the telepo- "It was silent!" Stark realizes. "That's how he was able to sneak up on you. There's no popping sound when your tile is used."
"In Vas Wis," Melfina smiles. "The results of dedicated research. That's just an example of what this place will accomplish someday when more people realize its value. This level is the true treasure of The Magic Arts and Crafts, not the store beneath."
Stark laughs, a new light in his eyes. "You're less crazy and more dangerous than I thought, Merchant Vendor."
"Why thank you Guard Captain," Melfina smiles. "Looks like we're finished here. I only have one bedroom upstairs, so you'll have to sleep in here for now, until we find out Lord of West Luna's plans for you. I'll bring down some extra blankets."
Melfina retrieves the blankets, wishes the paladin a good night, and heads back upstairs. With hours yet before he will be ready to sleep, Stark pulls out his Book of Chivalry and takes comfort in that which is familiar to him.
* * *
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